Today, January 18, 2013, is the deadline for filing legislation to be considered by the Great and General Court Massachusetts for the 2013–2014 Legislative Session. By all accounts, it will be just as active as in years past, if not more so. Early estimates indicate that more than 6,000 bills have been filed for deliberation.
Legislation to be considered during this session encompasses everything from a bill to “authorize owners to utilize products from cows or goats” to a proposal to encourage the continued development of renewable energy resources. And the need for revenues to support Massachusetts’ aging transportation infrastructure, combined with the state’s revenue receipts continuing to ebb and flow, leaves little doubt that legislation to implement or increase a variety of taxes will be a priority on the legislative agenda very early in 2013.
While the state eagerly awaits the details of legislation to increase taxes (as well as the hundreds of other bills that will be introduced throughout the year), it is clear that businesses and industries in Massachusetts and elsewhere must keep a keen eye focused on the more onerous proposals that will gain traction in the coming months. Although the legislature is known for being particularly deliberative, the fiscal situation of the state will require almost immediate action, and that could mean that the books of the Commonwealth will be balanced on the backs of businesses operating in Massachusetts.
In addition, several environmental issues are likely to get increased attention during the new legislative session. The perennial proposal to expand the bottle bill to include beverage containers beyond soda and beer will be the subject of intense debate, as will legislation to mandate “safer alternatives” to chemicals deemed too toxic for everyday use. Additionally, the Patrick Administration has inked its changes to the 2010–2020 Solid Waste Master Plan, which includes a variety of initiatives designed to encourage “zero waste” for individuals and businesses in Massachusetts.
Lastly, the legislative leaders in each branch have successfully campaigned to be reelected by their peers. This is significant to the legislative landscape because Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo will have considerable power to influence the thousands of bills that will be filed for debate. A key component of the ability to determine the outcome of various bills is the leaders’ authority to name legislators to powerful committees. Although the announcement of committee chairs is not expected for at least a few weeks, the fate of legislation will rest in the hands of a very few important legislators on Beacon Hill.
It is clear the 2013–2014 Legislative Session will likely be one of the most active and controversial sessions in recent memory, however the scope of issues to be seriously considered by the legislature and their impact on businesses throughout the state is less clear. Therefore, it is crucial to actively engage on issues that may affect how businesses operate and remain vigilant as the legislature begins its daunting task of combing through the thousands of bills filed by today’s deadline.
If you are following a specific bill and want more detail, please contact your regular McDermott Will & Emery lawyer or an author.